Income and area deprivation measures suggest that there are lower levels of poverty and areas of deprivation in rural Scotland. Rural Scotland has higher rates of employment and economic activity, with accessible rural areas having the highest hourly and annual pay. Although remote rural areas have the lowest rates of pay, this tells us very little about household resources overall.
These indicators of poverty have been criticised for failing to take into account the dispersed nature of rural poverty and the cost of living in rural Scotland. Indeed, it is estimated that the cost of living is notably higher for rural residents than it is for their urban counterparts. Research suggests that rural residents are paying considerably more for food, clothing, household goods, transport and housing. Rates of fuel poverty are rising steadily in rural areas, with twice as many households experiencing fuel poverty in rural areas than in urban.
With poverty measures focusing on income and place, as opposed to outgoings, it is possible that rural poverty is not easily identifiable. Though rural households may have higher incomes and are likely situated in less deprived areas, there is compelling evidence that many rural households are at risk of poverty due to their high expenditure on fuel and travel.
To better understand the impact of the cost of living on rural poverty, it may be useful to conduct further research into the feasibility of applying a rural cost-of-living adjustment to the poverty threshold (currently 60% of the UK median income). Such an adjustment may present a more accurate picture of rural poverty.
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